Hansen Natural, owner of popular energy drink Monster, has refused to comment on whether it had entered talks with Coca-Cola.

Hansen refused to answer analysts' questions on the rumoured talks during a conference call last night (24 September).

One analyst who took part, Mark Swartzberg of Stifel Nicolaus, said afterwards that "after speaking with independent trade sources, however, we believe a conversation continues".

Hansen's shares slipped 2% to US$0.31 this morning, but remained at their highest level since June, following the emergence of speculation about Coca-Cola last week.

Swartzberg added: "We think any formal relationship is likely to be an alliance rather than an outright purchase of Hansen. We would, however, expect any deal to help position Coke for an eventual purchase of the company."

Any deal could help Coca-Cola to gain a greater foothold in the growing energy drinks sector.

Hansen said in its trading update last night that Monster Energy sales, excluding its Java product, were up 17.5% for the 13 weeks ended 23 August. Monster gained 4.5% market share and continued to outpace energy drinks sector growth, the California-based firm said.